Friday, May 16, 1997

LebEnv #28


by Fareed Abou-Haidar

The Humvee is a large, wide, Jeep-like vehicle that was developed for the U.S. Army and used in the Gulf War. Obviously, as a military vehicle, it needed to be able to negotiate sand, mud, water, snow and so on, and to be able to travel cross-country. It can also be used in emergencies; it was prominently featured in the movie Volcano, where Humvees were used at the site of the volcano threatening to bury Los Angeles. In short, it is an ugly-looking, but great machine for the purposes it was made for.

Unfortunately, a "civilian" version of the Humvee, essentially the same as the military version, has been introduced under the name "hummer". It is advertised as being capable of going anywhere: across deserts, through dry riverbeds, across running rivers, on rocks, over bedrock surfaces, and on eroded dirt roads.

Here in the American Southwest, irresponsible use of four-wheel-drive vehicles of all kinds is a big problem. The fragile vegetation and soil is being trampled and eroded; wildlife is being harassed. More and more areas are becoming accessible to vehicles, depriving hikers and campers of solitude and the wilderness experience. The Hummer will only add to the problem; it is such a powerful and rugged vehicle that it will go where lesser four-wheel-drive vehicles do not dare go. This includes old dirt roads that had not been driven on for decades and that were being reclaimed by Nature. All this is happening despite the huge area and sparse population of the Southwest, an area dozens of time larger than Lebanon.

Thus I was horrified to find out recently that Hummers are now available for sale to civilians in Lebanon and Syria. They definitely serve no useful civilian purpose in Lebanon; it is a very small country, and most of it is already accessible by car. There are two ways in which these vehicles might be used.

  • One is for showoff on the streets of Beirut, Jounieh, Broummana and elsewhere. Many Lebanese have been in love with their cars for decades now, putting Californians to shame.
  • The other is to use the Hummer for joyrides across the already-abused countryside. Lebanon has large areas of barren, relatively flat land interspersed with rocks and streams, especially at higher elevations. A Hummer could easily drive cross-country through them, giving the driver and passengers a respectable testosterone rush. Left in the wake of such repeated abuse would be barren, erosion-prone soil, dead vegetation, ugly scars, trashed streams, and a generally degraded environment. Even more of the country will be reachable by vehicles. Goat herders, farmers, hikers and campers would hate it. Trust me; if it can happen in the vast American Southwest, even with all the rules in place, it will happen in tiny Lebanon. Car drivers negotiating the narrow city streets or mountain roads will not appreciate an extra-wide Hummer coming in the opposite direction and blocking the way.

Still, there is hope. Hummers are very expensive in the U.S.; they are likely to be more expensive in Lebanon. Therefore, relatively few are likely to be sold. And, as mentioned above, many will be for showoff by people who would not want them to be be scratched and dented by plants and rocks. If it is inevitable that Hummers are going to be sold in Lebanon, the dealer (agent) should educate customers on the proper way to use the vehicle, despite the slick advertising coming out of Madison Avenue; in short, stay on existing roads and don't spin your tires in the dirt. The Lebanese government (Ministry of the Environment) should educate the public about the environmentally-friendly way to use a vehicle, be it a car, a pick-up truck, or a Hummer.



Created 970528